It so happened that a volunteer donated several tins of mango tarts the evening that Mohir came. We made sure Mohir got one for taking the time to talk to us.
By TWC2 volunteer Kaavya G, based on an interview in November 2020
Three days after his injury, and while still on medical leave, Uddin Mohammad Mohir was asked to go back to his work site to meet his boss. He thought his boss was going to update him about his work arrangements; however, Mohir was wrong.
His boss was furious and started shouting at him, pressuring him to return to Bangladesh the following Monday.
“Monday want to go back? I give you ticket”. While phrased as a question, the tone of voice was such that it was obvious he would not take no for an answer.
Mohir wanted to recover fully before returning home. This made his boss even angrier, and he started hurling vulgarities. According to Mohir, these included unprintable insults against Mohir’s parents.
Eventually, the tense meeting ended, but the boss turned down Mohir’s request for taxi fare back to his dormitory. Barely out of hospital, Mohir was unable to take public transport due to his injury.
Mohir then decided that he should lodge a complaint at the Ministry of Manpower, which he did almost immediately. There, he explained his situation and the MOM officer assured him that the boss was not permitted to repatriate him in this manner. Should an attempt be made to force him to do so, Mohir was advised to call the police. There are many officers at the airport and he can approach them. This gave Mohir a little confidence and credit has to be given to MOM for reassuring him.
Mohir’s accident took place more than a year ago. He fell from a temporary staircase while hauling a concrete vibrator machine. He tripped, fell and injured his shoulder and lower back. The place was very “messy”, he says.
He also considers that he was lucky that where he landed there was a wall in front; if not, he would have fallen further onto the “spikey” ground — by which he means an area littered with sharp debris.
He was unconscious when he was brought to the hospital and does not remember what immediately happened after the fall.
Had to pay hospital himself
Over the past year, Mohir has visited his doctor around eight or nine times, and although under the law, employers are responsible for the costs of medical treatment after a workplace injury, Mohir has had to pay himself. Each visit cost him about $50-$70.
“Boss angry when give receipt,” he tells me.
Apparently, this was part of a pattern. For a long while, the boss refused to acknowledge the accident and Mohir’s injury even though the circumstances made it clear it was work-related. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers an injury to be work-related when an event or exposure in the work environment causes an injury. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), employees are allowed to make claims for work-related injuries under the Work Injury Compensation Act without having to take legal action.
Mohir is currently unemployed and he lives in a hostel paying rent himself. He has zero income and relies on free meals from TWC2’s Cuff Road Project.
Despite a difficult year, Mohir comes across as an optimistic person. In spite of the challenges he is facing, he is determined only to leave Singapore after he has fully recovered.
Again and again
On this website are many articles about the difficulties men face with their employers after suffering workplace injuries, and yet we keep seeing the same problems over and over again.
A year before Mohir’s accident, another worker in the same company also had an accident and we wonder when companies with bad safety records will be prevented from hiring more workers.
We have several stories about employers trying to forcibly repatriate injured workers to prevent them from getting medical treatment and instituting compensation claims, including some recent ones: Half naked man running in the night, Bala’s story, and Shahjahan’s story.
What we don’t know is how many such employers succeed in kicking workers out of the country.
The problem may be that while MOM steps in should a worker complain, no punitive action is taken (as far as we can see) against employers for attempting a forced repatriation in the first place. It’s as if employers are permitted to try their luck at avoiding responsibility. Hardly any wonder that we see such attempts again and again.